Aug 06, 2020
Nevada mail-in voting law previews looming 2020 legal battles over ballots
This news has been received from: washingtonexaminer.com
All trademarks, copyrights, videos, photos and logos are owned by respective news sources. News stories, videos and live streams are from trusted sources.
Nevada’s new automatic mail-in voting law is only the latest ballot systems change that has the potential to complicate the November election.
With less than three months until the election, the rapid changes are likely to prompt legal battles and election delays that could not only frustrate the public but undermine public confidence in the process.
In the wake of fears that the coronavirus pandemic could endanger public health at the polls, Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill into law on Monday that dramatically expands mail-in voting in the state, including sending every registered voter a mail-in ballot, rather than requiring voters to request one.
The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in hopes of stopping the legislation, arguing that it is unconstitutional.
Part of the concern with mail-in voting has to do with its potential for voter fraud, which has historically been a statistically insignificant problem.
“I'm particularly concerned that there's been the push for vote-by-mail with the demand that it be automatic, so ballots get sent automatically to all voter registrations, and then you do away with election safeguards that help to combat fraud,” said Jason Snead, the executive director of Honest Elections. “What Nevada did was not only will they be automatically mailing ballots, but they will also be legalizing vote harvesting.”
“Vote harvesting” is the practice of allowing individuals other than the voter to fill out and return his or her ballot. The laws have varying levels of flexibility from state to state, but the new Nevada law allows voters to designate any person to return the ballot.
The practice led to one of the most well-known cases of voter fraud when a Republican operative turned in so many false ballots for a North Carolina congressional candidate that the election had to be done over.
But a potentially bigger issue is whether elections administrators can handle the rapid changes, and if they can’t, whether legal battles over which mail-in ballots to count prompt a constitutional crisis.
“I don't want to be melodramatic,” Snead said. But he offered a metaphor for the impact of the vote-by-mail changes: “One of the things that folks don't know about the Titanic is that they knew that were sailing into an area of the ocean with icebergs. They knew that, and they did it anyway. And they sailed at full speed, and they were absolutely confident that they could manage the crisis if anything happens, and we all know that they hit an iceberg and sank.”
Primary elections have already exposed the challenges of rapid vote-by-mail implementation.
Former Democratic Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams said that her primary ballot arrived with the return envelope sealed. Democratic Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff didn’t receive his primary ballot in time to vote for himself by mail.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called attention to the challenges of mail-in voting by pointing to New York primary races, where the winner in some races could not be determined weeks later. “It is day 42 of the botched New York City primary, where still there is no election result in one congressional race,” she said.
Snead brought up Washington, D.C., which attempted ballots to every registered voter for the primary election. “They had to resort to emailing PDF of ballots to voters so that they would be able to vote,” he said.
Other challenges, such as deciding whether to count ballots that arrive after Election Day or elections administrators deciding if a mail-in ballot envelope signature matches that of the voter, could lead to lawsuits that divide the country.
“If states do adopt this sort of rush vote-by-mail model, then there is a serious risk of post-election litigation, particularly if there are tight races not just repressed, but any race — for House, Senate, governors,” Snead said.
And the result of that litigation could cast doubts about the U.S. electoral system, made even more consequential by rampant polarization.
“The ultimate goal of an election is to encourage people to believe in the democratic process, to show people that, ‘Here's the rules, here's the process, we follow the rules. Everything was transparent,’” Snead said. “If the trust breaks down, and all you've got is the pain of loss and the feeling that it was stolen from you, at this particular juncture in our politics, that could be a very, very damaging thing.”
The vast majority of the electorate will have the option to vote by mail this November, due, in part, to states that have changed their rules due to the coronavirus pandemic. And two key swing states changed their rules to send mail ballot applications, not actual ballots, to voters automatically: Wisconsin and Michigan.
But so far, none of the six most-watched Electoral College swing states have gone so far as to send all voters a mail-in ballot automatically. In addition to Nevada, California, the District of Columbia, and Vermont changed this year to send voters ballots automatically.
But even at this late stage, that could change.
“There are other states that are looking at their election practices putting their plans forward right now,” Snead said. “I fully expect that we're going to see at least a few more adopt this practice.”News Donald Trump Joe Biden 2020 Elections Voting Vote Recounts Campaigns
News Source: washingtonexaminer.com
A look at some of the voting-related lawsuits across the US
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of lawsuits about voting have been filed ahead of the November election. The cases concern the fundamentals of the American balloting process, including how ballots are cast and counted. Here’s a look at some of the top lawsuits in battleground states:
NORTH CAROLINA: The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee are suing in federal court to block state election officials from enforcing rule changes that could boost the number of ballots counted. That includes guidance that will allow the fixing of absentee ballots with deficient information without forcing the voter to fill out a new blank ballot.
PENNSYLVANIA: Republican lawmakers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a hold on a ruling that extends the deadline for counting and receiving mail-in ballots. The state Supreme Court said in a divided ruling that ballots must be postmarked by the time polls close and be received by county election boards by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. A separate federal lawsuit by the Trump campaign and the RNC seeks to outlaw drop boxes or other collection sites that some counties used in the June primary.
ARIZONA: A federal judge ruled in favor of Democrats by holding that voters who neglected to sign their early ballots before mailing them in get up to five days after the election to fix the problem. The judge ruled that it was not fair for elections officials not to give voters a chance to “cure” the problem. The case has since been appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
WISCONSIN: A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day. The ruling gave Democrats in the state at least a temporary victory in a case that could nonetheless by appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In neighboring Michigan, the GOP is suing to try to overturn a decision that lets the state count absentee ballots up to 14 days after the election.
OHIO: Democrats have sued the state’s election chief to force an expansion of ballot boxes in the state’s 88 counties. County election boards maintain single drop boxes at each board location as an alternative to mailing in an absentee ballot. Also in the state, a federal judge rejected changes to the signature-matching requirement for ballots and ballot applications.
Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.